Any organization that depends on written content needs content governance; that is, a clear means of planning, overseeing and coordinating that content. Follow these five steps to implement a content governance strategy for your organization.
Successful content governance is a long process, and like any long process, it should begin with a complete inventory of your starting situation. Whether you are starting with a complete tabula rasa — that is, no content at all — or are trying to organize the results of years of content creation and implementation, you need to know what you already have before you can determine what you need.
This auditing process begins with an inventory of any existing content. Is its quality low, middling or high? In what medium is it written? Most importantly, is it relevant to what your organization wants to accomplish? Use these criteria to determine the value of the existing content, and don’t be afraid to throw out anything you can’t use. The writing you already have is a sunk cost. Even if it originally cost a lot of time and money, there is no sense in using something that is useless.
The auditing process also includes taking stock of existing processes and strategies. Whatever content your organization possesses has been managed in some way. It may have been the work of one person alone, or it may have been haphazardly cobbled together by a multitude of people.
It may have come from a planned and executed strategy, or it may have arisen completely organically with no oversight. The point is that, implicitly or explicitly, your organization has an existing content strategy, even if that strategy is to not have any content at all. To implement a content governance system, you need to understand where your organization is starting.
Develop Your Strategy
Once you understand your organization’s starting point, you need to determine a target for your content initiative. Exactly what that target is depends on your organization. For instance, a for-profit company and a non-profit organization will have very different goals. However, the target should be clear, achievable and measurable no matter what it is. Your entire content governance strategy should focus on finding a way from your starting point to your target point.
Getting to your content strategy’s goal means finding your target audience and designing your content to be relevant to that audience. Far too many content managers make the mistake of trying to be a little relevant to every possible reader.
Instead, construct a profile of an ideal target reader, and find out exactly what that sort of person wants to read. The more closely someone fits your target profile, the more likely that person is to read and respond to your content. It works the other way, too. People who are not in a position to support your organization will not respond to your content.
Once you have a target audience, the real process of creating a strategy to produce and display relevant content can begin. Start by determining organizational roles: who will write the content, whether in-house or externally, who will edit and fact-check each piece of writing, who will own the content and who will manage the overall process.
Remember to build some flexibility into your strategy to account for unexpected changes in your organization or in your target audience, but set clear and consistent guidelines that will be followed throughout the process.
Plan Your Execution
With an overall content governance strategy in place, it is time to begin planning the content itself. This is the time to set a schedule, assign specific tasks to specific people and put a style guide in place to make sure all of your content matches a consistent standard. It can’t be stressed enough during this phase that every word on your organization’s website or in its printed materials represents your organization.
From the beginning, hold all of your content writers and editors to high standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style and overall quality of writing, as well as factual accuracy and proper attribution. Pay attention to the media you will use to house the content as well, and consider reorganizing your website or newsletter to more efficiently reach your target audience.
Begin The Process of Creation
Now that your organization has a clear and organized plan, it is time to start actually creating content. During the creation phase, stick to the plan as much as possible, but remember that it is a tool to reach your content governance goal, not the goal in itself. Insist on maintaining the same standards of quality and relevance no matter what happens, but don’t be afraid to make minor changes to the creation process to better meet those standards.
This is perhaps the most exciting phase of the content governance process, as your organization will start to see tangible results coming from a well-organized plan.
Delivery and Assessment
With content written, edited and ready to go, your organization is finally ready to start delivering its message to the target audience. The key to delivering content effectively is to keep the stream steady and the ideas fresh. Don’t update your blog three times in a given day unless you know you can consistently keep doing so day-in and day-out.
Add content on a consistent schedule, whether that is daily, weekly or monthly. That way, readers will periodically check your website or other medium to look for new content.
A huge portion of the delivery phase is ongoing assessment: Do you have some way of determining whether your content is doing its job? Depending on your organization, you may count hits on your website, sales leads or actual sales.
The key is to have some defined assessment criteria that can be tied back definitively to the content itself. Keep measuring your progress, change your strategy if necessary, and your organization will reap the rewards of great content governance.